Posted on May 31, 2020
It’s been quite a while since we started lock-down and for many photographers it’s been a bit of mixed bag of frustration: some made the most of things and started taking photographs on their daily walk whilst others, by the very nature of their chosen genre (studio/wedding/industrial etc), experimented with new ideas. A lot of studio pros use tethering but, of course, that’s not possible outdoors on your walk. So for many it’s back to hand-held work ‘in the field’. And the amount of macro photography that’s hit social media over these past few months is quite staggering. There seems lots to do even during this crisis. I’ve been one of the lucky ones because a lot of my work continues to be published albeit mainly on social media and commercial platforms: the stock-shots are already in my portfolio. Because I’ve contributed quite a lot of ‘stock’ over the last year or so it’s still being used – there’s a bit of hidden advice here: if you get into stock work then make sure that your portfolio is extensive. Same goes for commissions: keep adding to your portfolio and your clients have lots to choose from during lean times like these. And to be frank (and I can assure you that I’m not blowing my own trumpet here) I’ve lost count of the work I’ve had published over the last few months – never-mind the last year. And that’s because I’ve always made sure that I keep my submissions and portfolios full. If I didn’t I know that my clients would look elsewhere. What they want is a stock of images that they can call on at any time. So for me it works – to everyone’s advantage: I’m happy and so are they. But there’s one lesson I learned very early on: if you can’t get into the mind-set of your client then don’t even try. It’ll drive you to distraction. To be sure, if they know exactly what they want then they’ll tell you and they’ll expect matching results. A fellow ‘tog who is part of a members-only photographers’ social media group often asks advice about the shots he’s taken for an agricultural and print based media outlet – ‘Is there any way I could have improved on this shot and made it better for the client?. How could I have used lighting better etc etc?’ And yes, quite a few members offer good constructive critical advice. Brilliant! However, this photographer has regular work coming in, gets paid for it and is often sent on ‘shoots’. The cherry on all this is that he can now call himself a ‘published pro photographer’. So he doesn’t need to get ‘inside the head’ of his client: they obviously like what he does and he does what they want. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things. If your work gets published consistently then you don’t need to do anything apart from a few tweaks perhaps. I’m just a guilty as the next person and it takes a great deal of resilience not to over-think things. If the client likes what you do then change nothing. They are probably not photographers and therefore don’t need to think like one. Unfortunately this can sometimes be very frustrating for us. To illustrate this I’ll relate the story of a ‘festival’ shoot I did last year. I had to cover quite a lot of ground in photographic terms capturing the essence of the event and the people who attended. The actual photography went well and most folk were very receptive to me being there. I think I ended up with over 1,000 shots during the three day event…a good proportion of which involving getting people to sign model-release forms. I was fortunate to have my wife with me who did a sterling job getting on-the-hoof admin completed. At the end of each day it was back home to sort through and process the images ready for sending to the client. And that’s where the ‘crunch’ lies. Consider this for a moment: Lets suppose I’d dumped over 25% of the images, leaving approx 700 to be processed. Suppose that each image takes on average 5 mins to process (and that’s not long at all). Thus, total processing time is in excess of 58 hours! You’ve got a deadline to meet, ‘Can you send them to me tomorrow please? and copies to so-and-so…? Thanks.’ The client is only interested in the finished product not the blood sweat and tears you went through to get to there. Quite right too! So I suggest that if you haven’t already then start now and get your work-flow organised. Know your preferred software like the back of your hand. And make it work for you. This is no time for experimenting or trying things for the first time. And if you don’t need to then don’t try to get inside mind of your client. It’s a bit like over processing an image…don’t do it! You’ll spend too much time worrying whether it’s good enough. Someone once told me that the mark of a great painter is that they know when to stop. Something we all need to remember I think. Stay safe my friends.